Entering the 2016 MLB regular season, the catching position appeared to be one in which the Phillies were in a holding pattern at the big league level while the organization waited for a pair of top prospects to develop further.
The likely starter was going to be Cameron Rupp, with longtime veteran Carlos Ruizserving as the backup until such time as he was traded away to some contender.
At that point, if not sooner, catching prospect Andrew Knapp would be promoted to the Phillies to begin his own big league career.
Knapp had been one of the 2015 Phillies organizational Paul Owens Award winners, the top hitting prospect in the club’s minor league system last season.
Also down in the minor leagues, one of the pieces obtained from Texas in last year’s big Cole Hamels trade was catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was seen by many as even more talented than Knapp, though further away developmentally.
Rupp wasn’t seen by most as much more than a backup catcher at the Major League level, hitting for just a .233/.301/.374 slash line across 299 plate appearances a year ago in his first significant, regular playing time.
As could be expected, these last six months since the club was sorting it all out back at spring training in Clearwater have been a mixed bag where those catching expectations are concerned.
However, Rupp had drilled nine home runs in that time, demonstrating that he could likely be counted on for 15-20 homers if given the position on a full-time basis for the entire season.
The most disappointing result at the catching position this year is easily the stalling out, at least for now, of Knapp at the AAA level.
After hitting for a combined .308/.385/.491 slash line with 13 homers, 84 RBI, and 77 runs scored at High-A Clearwater and AA Reading in 2015, Knapp fell off to .266/.330/.390 with eight homers, 46 RBI, and 55 runs scored with AAA Lehigh Valley this season. He never reached Philly.
Ruiz was finally dealt away at the end of August to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return the Phillies received veteran catcher A.J. Ellis, along with minor leaguers Tommy Bergjans and Joey Curletta.
Ellis was a bit of a surprising addition to the deal, and both Dodgers fans and his teammates were disappointed to see him go to the Phillies. He provided a nice backup to Rupp over this past month.
So let’s give a grade to the four players who did see catching time this year with the Fightin’ Phils: Rupp, Ruiz, Ellis, and Alfaro.